How often do you consider your starting point? Everything in our lives has one: every day, every relationship, every project, every conversation.
Too often, we jump into whatever is in front of us without evaluating our starting point. I find this ironic, sad, and humorous all at the same time. And yes, all three can be true.
A certain Taylor Swift lyric comes to mind:
“There’ll be happiness after you
But there was happiness because of you
Both of these things can be true”
Being mindful of our starting point is absolutely critical, especially in work and relationships involving teams.
Teams are made up of people that are on the same side, in it together, working to achieve the same end goal. The individuals on a team may have different roles — quarterback, running back, tight end, wide receiver — but all work together toward the same objective.
At the same time, our starting point with one another is all too often one of skepticism, doubt, and mistrust. There’s an absence of compassion. We assume the worst. And we tend to believe a mistake is intentional or a result of an absence of caring or commitment. We tend to be too short with one another and too quick to judge. We jump to conclusions. We make assumptions.
Teams work together. Teams also self-sabotage.
Both of these things can be true.
As leaders, we have a responsibility to caution ourselves about our starting point. It would behoove us immensely if we set reminders to check in with ourselves on a regular basis and ask, “where is my starting point? What am I feeling and thinking about the circumstances right now?” Doing this will become one of your most powerful tools for positively impacting what comes next.
Why does the starting point matter so much? Because we find what we’re looking for.
And because each new day, new conversation, new relationship is an opportunity to hit RESET.
If we happen to end one day with feelings of anger or confusion, it’s likely that that will be our starting point for today — and we’ll get more of the same. When we hear someone talk, we’ll listen with skepticism and doubt, treating them like an adversary, not a teammate.
But if we consciously choose to start from a healthier place, one of curiosity, compassion, and a belief in their positive intention, it’s an entirely different story — and a better one.
Choosing the right starting point also helps us to get out of the absolutes. We can accept the facts, and additional facts, even if they look contradictory. Both can be true, depending on which part of the equation you’re looking at.
Maybe negative things happened (this is true). And maybe there were underlying circumstances that you didn’t know or couldn’t see (this is also true) that help you understand those negative things in a new light.
If the idea of choosing a different starting point is challenging for you, it might be worthwhile to stop and check in with your ego.
As leaders, it’s easy to feel like we’re supposed to know everything, have all the answers, and get it right all the time. But if we can set our egos aside and ask, “tell me what I don’t know,” we’ll have an easier time accepting that we don’t know everything — and that we might not always approach our work from the best starting point.
If you feel like you’re falling short, the best thing you can do is recognize that. Be aware. Be humble.
Where are you starting from? Are you angry, excited, curious, mad? If you can’t know that, you can’t understand how you’ll behave and why. And you won’t be able to choose a better starting point, even if there is one.
Know yourself, and you’ll know exactly where you need to start to make tomorrow better than today.